ARNOLD ARRE Filipino Fantasy Artist

Notes on “Lakas ng Lahi,” an animated short film

Animation, Musings

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My friend and colleague, writer and U.P. Professor Emil Flores, and I have always enjoyed watching and talking about action movies. We’re both frustrated with the fact that VERY FEW Filipino movies are showcasing Filipino martial arts like arnis and eskrima. Since I was already doing animation, I thought it would be fun to make a film to showcase these fighting techniques.

I called up Emil one night in October 2013 to ask if he wanted to collaborate on a fantasy / action / adventure story. At first we dubbed it “the Katipunero project” because the story initially involved Katipuneros. It evolved into a group of Filipino martial arts fighters who travel to the past to fight in the Filipino revolution.

lakas ng lahi storyboards

Later, we decided to set the story in present day Manila and just make them vigilantes who are keen on arnis and eskrima. Finally, we settled on the characters being Katipunero warriors who are brought to the present to fight crime using age-old fighting techniques and weapons.

I’m very honored to have worked on this story with Emil and here he is to tell you more about how the project came together.

***
I’ve always loved action movies. Martial arts movies are particularly fascinating for me because a fighting style can reflect the culture that developed it. I think that martial arts movies are good vehicles for cultural exchange and even cultural pride. I love movies like Heroes of the East that showcase styles from different cultures namely China and Japan. In a film conference I attended in Singapore, a scholar from Thailand included Ong Bak in his discussion of nationalism in Thai films. Indeed, that particular film put Muay Thai on the global entertainment map. Then The Raid showcased Indonesian Silat to the global audience to rave reviews.

The Filipino martial arts have been proven to be effective combat systems and have been successfully portrayed in Hollywood movies like the Bourne series and even 300. But that’s precisely what I find baffling. Why are Hollywood movies showcasing Filipino martial arts and not FILIPINO movies? I can bring in a host of colonial and postcolonial discussion here about our relationship with the US. But I won’t.

Instead, I’ll just say that as a fan of animation and anime, I am tremendously excited that Arnold Arre is doing an animated series that features Filipino martial arts! I’m also grateful that he invited me to work on the project with him.

lakas ng lahi concept art

Arnold had the premise of three warriors from the 19th Century. He showed me his character designs for three fighters, and I figured they should represent three types of Filipino martial arts: pre-Hispanic, Hispanic influenced and Chinese influenced. These styles are represented by the characters’ weapons. The styles and weapons in turn, define their character backgrounds. The leader uses a kampilan, a sword identified as a weapon used by chieftains. This defines him as the leader and as a man who has lost his noble line due to the Spanish invasion. He sees the revolution as a battle not just for freedom but also for his ancestors’ honor. The female character, a Spanish mestiza, uses Spanish daggers. She has the invader’s blood in her veins but she forsook her privileged status to join the revolution. The third character uses a rope dart as he is a Chinese immigrant to the Philippines who, while keeping his own culture, still identifies himself as a Filipino as he also joins the revolution. All three now find themselves fighting a different war, a more ambiguous war, perhaps, in present day Manila.

I hope that this series will not just showcase great action and entertainment but also remind us of the warriors of the past who fought for our country and who continue to inspire us to appreciate our own culture and history.

(Emil Flores, May 28, 2014)

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And now, just in time for Independence Day 2014, here it is:

Lakas ng Lahi (“Blood Compact”) – Filipino Animated Short Film from Arnold Arre on Vimeo.

Sila ang mga matang mulat sa marahas na pang-uusig. Sila ang patuloy na sumasaksi at lumalaban sa pawang paraang kanilang kinagisnan: Pakikipagdigmaan.

Lakas ng Lahi
(English title: Blood Compact)
Directed & Animated by Arnold Arre
Written by Emil Flores
Story by Arnold Arre & Emil Flores
Music composed by Cynthia Arre / arranged by Arnold Arre
Opening text Filipino translation by Neva Kares Talladen

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My Thoughts of Moebius: A tribute to comic book master Jean Giraud

Musings

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moebius tribute art

Just a few days after Ralph Macquarrie, the world lost yet another master.

I owe a lot to Jean “Moebius” Giraud. My style has been heavily influenced by his art. I first learned of him sometime in the late ’80s after I read reviews of Tron and Blade Runner, the costumes of which he designed. His breathtaking artworks left me awestruck and I was amazed by how this man could effortlessly draw from imagination without inhibition. He feels the moment and draws it on paper.

(Just to add,  his take on Silver Surfer is, for me,  still the best.)

Every time I feel down, each moment I’m tempted to go for the mainstream “money shot”, or even as I struggle with a project, I would look at his works and get inspired by how easy he can evoke emotion and energy with just a few strokes. Here’s a simple, straightforward, and encouraging quote from him for all artists:

It is difficult to give advice to aspiring artists. There are so many things one should say. It’s difficult to be brief. Every artist is diferent, and good advice to one artist is bad for another. My best advice would be, “be what you must be and do your best. Anything more precise, more specific cannot apply because everyone is too different.” (The Art of Moebius edited by Byron Preiss)

The tribute illustrations are based on his Arzach stories. He once said that three elements must come together for the artist when he draws — beauty, truth and love. Whether or not I got it right with these drawings, I leave it up to him.

moebius tribute art

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An interesting reaction to the Rock Rizal “Kaninong Anino” video

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Thanks to everyone who viewed and sent in great feedback for the “Kaninong Anino” video animation. I want to share with you an interesting message from history researcher and translator Ms. Mari Furusawa, a colleague of my father-in-law Dr. Leslie Bauzon’s from back in Japan. Furusawa-san is well-versed in our culture and history and sent in this touching note after viewing the animation:

Dear Bauzon sensei,

Thank you for sending the music video created by Arnold. It was so beautiful and moving. The song was great. The image of the ruined Manila provoked my memories about the violence committed by the Japanese military at the beginning of 1945.

Arnold explained the image differently at his website, but the image will trigger many people’s memory of the Asia-Pacific War, I think. The biggest difficulty in the history of the Philippines burdened on her people was the invasion and violent war by Japan, wasn’t it?

Putting that aside, the message of the video is very clear and inspiring. It says that there is hope in hands of each and every individual in the country. The video is the perfect work for the 150th birth anniversary of Jose Rizal. Congratulations to Arnold on the completion of the beautiful video! I hope the video will enjoy a lot of audience around the world and the sincere and warm message of the video and the song will inspire and encourage peoples beyond national borders.

Send my warm regards to Cynthia and Arnold.

With best wishes,
Mari

It’s a very interesting point of view — again, something I never really thought about when I was making the video and putting in all that destruction because the song’s message, to me,  is really all about our own mistakes as a people and a call to action for us to rise against the rubble. Still, I am happy that the message about hope came across despite the language and culture barriers.

On that note, allow me to end this entry by sharing that my wife is currently studying Nihongo so the entire time I was editing it, she was singing along to the video using Japanese lyrics: Watashitachi no teki wa kage desu ka? (Ang kalaban lang ba natin ay anino?) ;)

[caption id="attachment_768" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="Kaninong Anino animation slide"]Kaninong Anino animation slide[/caption]

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